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At first sight this picture seems to show a slight episode taken from rural life. But in Mulready's hands a mere domestic incident acquires a much weightier meaning. A group of people have travelled over a rock-strewn landscape and are passing, or are about to pass, through a ford. The young girl, the first to experience this rite of passage, is the main subject. Her glance tells us that she is making a momentous choice: which of the two youths carrying her is the most desirable? The old, who have made their choices, and the young, who will do so one day, hesitate at the water's edge beyond.

October 1993